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“There were days when Mohed Altrad woke up as a boy and did not have any food. But he always wanted more from life,” says businessman and now author Rafael Badziag of the billionaire owner and chairman of the Altrad Group.
“He knew the only chance of getting out was through education so, at ten, he hired his bike out to buy books,” adds Badziag in conversation with Forbes.com following the publication of his new book The Billion Dollar Secret.
Altrad, who was born to a Bedouin father in Syria in 1948, raised by his grandmother and destined to be a shepherd, walked barefoot to school and won a scholarship to study in France at the age of 17.
From there, he worked to establish the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, returning to France to invest in and then sell a company producing an early laptop, bought a scaffolding company – the first step in what was to become a global construction services and equipment company following 200 further acquisitions – wrote three novels and turned around Montpelier’s rugby team.
Five careers and three decades later, Altrad is ranked #838 in the Forbes list of billionaires.
What billionaires have in common
Badziag spent five years travelling around the world visiting 30 billionaires in total, his interviews helping him to refine in his mind and define for the readers what it takes to become a billionaire. It also allows him to see what they had in common.
Billionaires, and certainly those that made it into the book, come from relatively poor backgrounds and even relatively poor countries, often having to leave their home countries, just like Altrad, to realise their dreams.
“Twenty-five percent – a striking percentage – of billionaires are migrants who move from one country to another.”
They are themes common to Badziag’s own story.
His own father is German and his mother Polish, his father’s relatives coming from a part of Poland that had been German until the German/Polish border moved further west after the Second World War.
In 1998, Badziag became a pioneer of e-commerce founding sports goods startup Raddiscount. He did not have much experience of commerce, having trained as a mathematician rather an entrepreneur, but still managed to become a millionaire.
A millionaire on billionaires
But what other qualifications does Badziag have as a mere millionaire to write about how to become a billionaire?
His own company had become successful but it was not growing at the pace and to the scale necessary to make him the one in every five millionth person who becomes a billionaire.
“I realised that a multi-million-dollar company did not feel successful but instead rather average. I realised that if I was to compete against people who were better than me, I would need more than millionaire-thinking.”
He started reading books and going to self-development conferences. He began to analyse which business leaders are the best and soon realised he did not have a billionaire-mindset. He also spotted that there are books about individual business leaders but no book pulling them all together to analyse what they have in common.
“So I embarked on a journey travelling around the world meeting 30 of them and putting 21 in the book.”
After analysing what he discovered and he had stopped travelling, he started employing the principles in his own company and has now implemented 60% of what he learnt. Within a year, the revenue doubled and profits tripled.
“I am not a billionaire yet although on my way.”
So what are Badziag’s top five ways to become a billionaire?
Way one: it is in you
“The first thing I learned from the billionaires is that external factors do not determine their success,” says Badziag.
Billionaires create their future doing whatever it takes – even changing country, like Altrad – to make their dreams a reality
“It’s your inner workings that make you excel in business, not the conditions outside you.”
Way two: build your BOAT
“Your B.O.A.T. consists of Belief, Optimism, Assertiveness, and Trust in yourself. You need to be optimistic, confident, and assertive toward sceptics, and for all that you need belief!” writes Badziag in the book.
The only present Altrad ever received from his father was that bike which he rented out to buy books and educate himself. A major motivation for Altrad, even then, was the optimism to be able to solve a problem.
“Like Noah’s Ark, your B.O.A.T. will safely navigate you through the endless seas and the whirlwinds of your career.”
Way three: avoid the gold diggers’ trap
It takes an income of only $25 million a year to buy the New York apartment, house on the Riviera and a yacht. If you earn much more your lifestyle is not going to be notably different. So, if you are motivated by money alone, argues Badziag, you’re going to lose motivation way before you get anywhere near a billion.
For Altrad survival, not money was his motivation.
Way four: never stop improving
Billionaires have a commitment to constant learning.
Altrad’s only escape was education, not so much a formal one but a real commitment to continual personal development.
“Many billionaires may not have schooling, but they excel in education. Use every opportunity to learn. You never know what it’s going to be good for. So learn whenever and wherever possible.”
Way five: hungry eagles soar highest
“One of the main differences between a millionaire and a billionaire is that the ambition of the latter is limitless and relentless.”
Badziad says that Altrad compares it to speed where if you want to go at 150 rather than 100 kilometres an hour you need a Porche rather than a Volkswagen.
“A millionaire is one lucky strike but a billionaire is at the highest level of performance for years.”
May 31, 2019 at 02:20AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs